OBITUARY - Obituary
March 17, 2017, a month ago
As a teen, I often dreamt of the mighty Obituary. These were incredibly vivid, all-too-real dreams; the kind of dream that, after waking, required a moment to reorient one's self and their time and place within the universe. The dream was always the same - the guys showed up at my parent's house, in butt-fuck nowhere rural Ontario, ready to hang with their number one fan... little old me. We would proceed to hit up my high school, walking the halls like the death metal version of Satans Mothers (mind the lack of possessive punctuation... it's spelled that way in the damn movie!). Let's keep in mind that these dreams started some time in-and-around early '90 - the very same time as some mammoth releases from the Big 4 of metal, yet my subconscious mind chose Obituary as the vehicle to live as a king for a day. This was the power of early death metal.
If you too lived through it, it's nearly impossible to describe the feelings invoked by those early days of death metal. After years of playing it safe within the confines of conventional metal, death metal offered something completely new and wholly different. Honestly, for me, there is nothing equivalent today that can incite those same feelings; apart from discovering that Xenomorphs truly do exist, and are on their way here (having just passed Jupiter with the next stop being us!).
It was with the release of their debut effort, Slowly We Rot ('89), that the blueprint of down-tuned, palm-muted, groovy-yet-brutal riffage was laid down. The ominous opening chord progression of the album namesake was the thing of nightmares, immediately sending a chill from the feet, up through the spine, ending with an icy dagger straight to the unsuspecting heart. Metal would never be the same. Not to be outdone by their inherent superhero-like songwriting, the guys followed-up with two incredibly constructed albums in Cause Of Death and The End Complete, both of which continued to inform the sub-genre in its infancy.
With each successive release came that pioneering sense of excitement and wonder that only comes with real discovery. This continued up until the release of 94's World Demise. Just as that album's title implied, well, death metal had already started to get caught up in the cogs of the polluting, corporate machine. Major label releases from genre heavyweights (Napalm Death, Entombed, Morbid Angel) betrayed the inherent anti-establishment/fuck-convention attitude that this music was originally birthed from. With every exciting discovery SEEMINGLY unearthed, well, it was the beginning of the end... complete.
For those of us with more discerning tastes, the tropes and been-there-done-that mentality of first-wave death metal had begun to run its course by the mid to late 90s. It's not that albums such as Back From The Dead, Frozen In Time, Xecutioner's Return, and Darkest Day were necessarily bad, they were just... unremarkable. I mean, this is obviously all subjective, as I'm sure there are those out there that swear by every title in the catalog, and will fight to the bloody death defending them.
Perhaps all of this says something about the age of those who have been there since the beginning; those of us who have a deep, personal connection to these bands. Just as the personalities and tastes of our favorite bands and musicians grow/mature/change, so to do we. Sometimes, though, we grow in completely opposite directions.
Nevertheless, like old high school friends that have drifted apart through the years, there is an inherent need in most of us to reconnect with our past. In this particular case, that re-connection came with the release of 2014's Inked In Blood - an album that recalled past memories, while retaining a modern twist (particularly in the production). Inked is rife with pulverizing, violent, cranium-bludgeoning old school death metal riffing. If Inked In Blood is that slightly awkward re-connection at the 28th year high school reunion, their brand-spankin-new effort is definitely the morning after - awaking in a hotel bed next to that super-hot high school crush from three decades earlier.
Yep. Obituary were my high school crush, and their latest self-titled effort reminds me of every beautiful, luscious, boner-worthy moment from their first three albums. The reunion begins with a sharp, one-two punch in openers "Brave" and "Sentence Day", which literally recall the thrashier vibes of the very early stuff, such as "Godly Beings" and "Back To One". This shit is catchy, quick, and wastes zero fucking time getting to the point. Then shit gets spooky. Those ominous Obituary chord progressions begin to creep in, along with the crushing, mid-paced, signature riffing found in classics such as "I'm In Pain" and "In The End Of Life". Two perfect examples of this can be found in "Kneel Before Me" and "It Lives", each of which could have sat comfortably on World Demise.
Like any memorable moment involving a high school crush, there is that one recollection that stands above them all. That one moment where time and space cease to exist. In the context of Obituary, I can recall that moment like it was yesterday. The anguished screams of main-man John Tardy in Cause Of Death's opening twosome, "Infected" and "Body Bag", are etched in my mind for all eternity. As stated at the very top of this review, it's nearly impossible to recall those feelings of excitement and discovery experienced back in the early days of death metal, and it's certainly not without trying. Like the rest of you old-school fuckers, I've slogged through every post-Tomb Of The Mutilated, post-Once Upon The Cross, post-Effigy Of The Forgotten album in search of those very same feelings... to no avail. Each of these pioneering bands - to these ears - has yet to achieve that same excitement with their later work.
Well, I'm truly ecstatic to report that the closest I have ever come to reliving those moments are contained within this newest Obituary platter. It's towards the end of the album that I am transported back in time with the incredible threesome of "Turned To Stone", "Straight To Hell", and "Ten Thousand Ways To Die". Yeah, yeah, I know, it's not healthy to live in one's past. Somehow, Obituary have managed to retain the essence of their formative years while avoiding the pit of self-parody. Perhaps it all boils down to the approach, as this thing reeks of a modesty and unpretentiousness that is rarely heard these days. It literally sounds like five guys jamming in their parent's basement... the very same basement that gave birth to brutality.
Along with the latest Immolation album, this newest Obituary is a welcomed change of pace from the all-noodle-no-brutal approach favored by many of today's modern death metal bands. Let the Obituary of today stand as a lesson in death metal class, poise, and wizardry... all-brutal-fuck-your-noodle!